The week before last, Blair attempted to push away the issue of when he would retire by refusing to name a specific date, no less than 8 times – thus in media terms pulling the pin right out of that particular grenade. This week, it all went off!
No-one, but no-one, was going to let him get away with that! Over the last few days, we saw a concerted effort by 15 totally unknown Labour MPs (the 2001 intake) writing a secret letter to Himself, pleading for Tone to “stand aside”. The fact that they probably all owe their position in Parliament to Blair, does not seem to have occurred to them.
The first sentence of the letter is a tad ironic – it starts “Dear Tony, We are writing this private letter as a group of MPs, ……..”. Lovely word that - “private”. The whole smarmy text took until around Wednesday to become public knowledge. Their bitch seemed not to be anything specific about his policies, simply that his continued presence as PM was making them increasingly unlikely to be re-elected. How charming to have friends and colleagues like that.
It now transpires that there was actually a concerted, four stage plan to push Tone over the edge, with an expectation that He would be gone by Saturday (that’s today). Having started with the aforementioned 15, it was to be followed firstly by the 2005, and then the 1997 intake. These last two letters did not get sent, either because they decided that the 2001 salvo had already holed him below the waterline, or they just chickened out when they realised that Saturday was not going to happen. Very noble.
So now we’ve got Blair on the run and most of the Labour MPs on the “Night of the Long Knives” bandwagon, looking to Brown as their Saviour. But no, that’s not what everyone wants apparently, so we now get our Gordon throwing a hissy fit. If he really thinks he’s our next Prime Minister, a modicum of statesmanlike behaviour would have been more appropriate. We’re now subjected to the two top men in New Labour behaving in a way which should have resulted in both of them being sent to their bedrooms - with no tea. But, given who they are, they’re still there, running the country.
Chapter 2 - Lyndon Johnson (US President 1963-69) – “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”
Not the nicest image you can imagine, but Oh how effective!
One of Margaret Thatcher’s biggest strategic errors was how she continually sacked her most highly skilled Ministers, converting them, at a stroke, from loyal foot soldiers, to powerful enemies. If you want a perfect example of this, just look up Geoffrey Howe’s Resignation speech in the Commons. It was actually written by his wife Elspeth, and as an example of “Hell hath no fury ……”, I know of no better. But his gentle, almost apologetic delivery, was a needle sharp, very accurate scalpel.
At least in the Roman Empire, she would have had them executed, which would have resulted in them being a lot less troublesome, but Health and Safety these days…………. . You’d have thought that Blair and Brown would have learnt from that – it was only 15 years ago. But no. Enter, or more accurately Exit - Charles Clarke, who was dumped as scapegoat for the botched Foreign Prisoner’s release scandal in May this year.
Charles Clarke is an intellectual heavyweight and one of the two best thinkers in New Labour. He’s not averse to a fight, and he feels very, very sore about the way he was cavalierly ejected from his job as Home Secretary in May this year His blood has not yet dried on that one. So he now decides that he’s worth a bit of air time himself. In the ways of politicians, he does it, not by pushing himself forward, but by poking a big stick at Brown, who he described as “a control freak, …deluded and uncollegiate”, and commenting that Brown’s actions were “absolutely stupid, a stupid, stupid thing to do” – how brilliant is all that! He presumably felt no need to take a swipe at Blair, as Blair had done that to himself well enough already. So he finishes off his part of the game by putting everyone off the scent by recommending Alan Milburn as Prime Minister material. Not you will note, as Prime Minister. You have to read the words quite carefully here. Actually, read his interview in total, it's the most refreshing piece from a politician for quite a while. Clarke still has some big cards to play here.
You can now see a range of up and comings, jostling for the ultimate position. They all want Blair to carry on for as long as he can, as this gives them all the best chance of getting themselves better known than at present, to give Brown a run for his money when the time comes next year.
Chapter 3 - It all brings to mind two final quotes.
The first from Harold Wilson again -
“The Labour Party is like a vehicle. If you drive at great speed, all the people in it are either so exhilarated or so sick, that you have no problems. But when you stop, they all get out and argue about which way to go.”
The second from Billy Connolly –
“If you wouldn’t go out for a drink with them, don’t vote for them.”
Perhaps that’s why nearly 40% of the electorate couldn’t be bothered to cast a vote in 2005. You wonder what the figure will be next time.
This story is really bubbling up nicely now. There’s nothing like a bit of internecine strife, Brother fighting Brother hand to hand, as well as Ministers of the Crown shrieking at each other with handbags flailing, to get the interest back into Politics.
This has got a long way to go yet, so keep rubbing your hands.